I was staring at the handkerchief for the millionth time when I heard footsteps approaching. Two knocks on my door were enough to send me into a tidying up frenzy. It wasn’t safe to bring the handkerchief around, so I put it back to the box along with other stuffs and slid it under my bed. My door was opened as soon as I jumped on to the bed, posing as natural as I could.
“Hey, Mom,” I grinned widely as my mom opened the door. She couldn’t just find out that I had been keeping the dirty handkerchief she had thrown out before. She would ask questions and that would end up with me having to tell her about Carson.
“Someone’s here to see you,” she said.
Another figure appeared behind her. A boy with a neck length, black hair smiled radiantly as our eyes met.
“Elliott?” I gasped. I got on my feet and just received the hug from his muscular body, still with a bewildered expression. “Elliott Calloway?”
Elliott released the hug and stared at me with one eyebrow raised. “You’re acting like you haven’t seen me in years.”
“Because I have not!” An apologetic smile spread across my face.
“Didn’t you see him in Nathan’s Alpha crowning ceremony?” Mom frowned her brows.
“That was four years ago,” I rolled my eyes. “Besides, was it really my fault that we didn’t see eye to eye?”
Elliott chuckled awkwardly. The youngest in his pack, he had his own perception that he had to obey what the others said, especially if it was Nathan. It was known to man that Thea Whitlock was the less important sister of Nathan Whitlock, so Elliott himself would avoid having a conversation with me more than ten seconds.
After he had his own pack, Nathan barely cared about me anyway. Selene was still talking to me. There was no reason why Elliott who was my good friend back in Grassmere would stop contacting me altogether.
Then, another name crossed my mind: Drake. The loyal best-friend-slash-follower of Nathan, who took making fun of me as a hobby, was Elliott’s cousin.
“That’s actually why I’m here,” Elliott spoke before the supposed reunion went south. “I heard from my uncle that your dad wanted to celebrate Full Moon with us. I’m here to help you prepare.”
Wow, it was actually very kind of him. I didn’t have an immediate respond until my Mom said, “Well, I’m gonna leave you kids to plan. We don’t need a big celebration, just enough for offerings and gathering.”
After Mom left, I stared at Elliott. “Did your Uncle Mack put you up to this? I know you hate getting busy unless it’s for Nathan.”
“Come on, Thea. There isn’t enough apology in the world for you to finally forgive me, is there?”
“Leaving me to eat my lunch alone didn’t really need an apology,” I giggled. “I guess I was just jealous of you guys. My own brother didn’t even want me in his pack, but he enlisted my best friend instead.”
“Oh, I’m your best friend now?” He elbowed me jokingly.
“You would have, if only you stuck around with me at lunch a little bit longer.”
Elliott’s laugh didn’t change at all. When he was with me, he looked more carefree. Joining the elite pack—other tribes would say so when they saw Nathan’s pack—forced him to act more mature and put a menacing cover to his warm personality. I actually pitied him, but he didn’t seem to mind.
As soon as we stepped outside, the sun started to set and the street lights flickered on. It was calm and quiet like any other evening. There was quite a distance between houses, so I rarely saw anyone walked down the street.
“We should start by looking for a place to hold the gathering,” Elliott said. “Good thing your house is near the woods. Maybe there was a clearing on the hill.”
“This isn’t exactly like Grassmere. There are not many hills in Ashborne, although the woods area was a bit bigger,” I explained. “Should we take a look?”
Elliott nodded and we began to enter the woods. Because of our power, we still could see ourselves through the woods, despite the sky getting darker. When exploring the woods, we caught up with each other's lives. From his story, I had a thought that staying in Grassmere would probably be more exciting if only both of our families weren’t so strict.
The Calloways had been taking care of Elliott since he was six. He lost both of his parents in a boat accident, which prompted Malcolm and Anna Calloway to bring him along to join Shadow Striders tribe in Grassmere. Because of the pact which obliged us to stay in small groups, each tribe could only consist of five to seven packs.
The tribe rules weren’t that rigid. You could join any pack from any tribe, but once you did, you became part of the tribe the pack belonged too. Even so, there were many wolves decided to be an Omega, in which they wouldn’t be bound with any packs or tribe. To protect ourselves from any malicious things, however, joining a tribe was very much advised.
Piper Preston, Selene’s mother; Greg Waltz, Bryan’s father; and my dad, Robert Whitlock, were the Elders of the Shadow Striders. Not necessarily an Alpha, they acted as the guardians of the tribe, made decisions, basically doing all the political things you could find in a country. After my dad took our family to leave the tribe, Malcolm ‘Mack’ Calloway took his place.
Elliott also said that the last pack of the tribe was finally created when Ander Lopez became an Alpha. Ander went to the same elementary school as we were. Unlike Elliott, he had no interest in joining Nathan’s circle, even though he and his friends were sending harsh comments towards me before as well.
“Alpha Ander. Does that sound wrong to you?” I giggled.
“Please. He’s been rubbing that on my face every day. I belong to one of the best pack in the whole world, so it really doesn’t budge me at all,” Elliott said.
“Really? Isn’t it every wolf’s dream to become an Alpha—to be somehow in charge?”
“Oh, is it yours?”
The returned question wasn’t expected at all. I shook my head immediately. “Never in a million years that I think of having my own pack.”
“I can say the same about me. If anything, I’m actually interested to become one of the Tribe Elders,” he shrugged.
“A Tribe Elder?” I gasped, holding a laugh. “It’s like—the most boring job any wolves would ever think of!”
“It’s also the most responsible job,” he defended.
“Exactly, Elliott.” I stepped on a twig and it split in two. “One thing—one thing—goes wrong, and you’re blamed for the rest of your life.”
“I know all the consequences, Tee.”
I stopped walking and turned around to face Elliott. The atmosphere around us suddenly became serious, and I couldn’t help but look into his eyes.
“Why do you think my dad moved us out of Grassmere? Leaving the tribe?” I asked. “If you were thinking, ‘because Thea was almost got killed by hunters’, you were half right. My dad thought that he couldn’t even protect his own daughter—imagine if it was 30 people?”
Elliott was quiet for a moment. From his reaction, he just found out the real reason behind our move.
“I don’t know. Maybe because I’ve seen Uncle Mack take care of me, I’d just like to return the favor for other wolves that have misfortunate lives like me,” he answered sincerely. He put his hands on my shoulders. “You don’t have to worry about it, Tee, but I honestly thank you for worrying about me.”
I had never seen Elliott being so outspoken like this, expressing his heartfelt wish. He had spent years shadowed by Drake, the annoying cousin, the way I was always under Nathan’s. We were actually in the same boat, but the way we saw the world was very different. Elliott was a proud werewolf, but me? Not so much.
Dad might get angry if he heard this, but I actually loved being human. One of the reasons why I still couldn’t shift smoothly was probably because I preferred to stay in my human body compared to my wolf one. Transforming, at least once a month, was still pretty much required to let the wolf out of the restraint. Myths said that wolves who was held in too often would turn into beasts. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
When I was into my deep thought, I heard Elliott shout.“Oh, look!” He almost jumped excitedly. He looked over my shoulder and then walked past me. “It’s a spring!”I caught up with his steps. From the distance, I could see a small waterfall above a pool of spring, glistening under the moonlight. The sound of the water was serene and soothing. The stones were reflecting the luminescence of the moon. It reminded me of this one spring in the middle of the woods in Grassmere, but this spring was wider and deeper. The waterfall just made it more exquisite.I had gone around these woods before, but I never realized that there was a beautiful spring here.“Do you remember when we were kids, there was this tale about Moon Goddess descended to the Earth on the night of the brightest Full Moon?” Elliott asked, almost with a whisper because he didn’t want to ruin the nature’s sound.Mom used to read it to
Dad wasn’t amused hearing my story about how some people were hunting deer at night in the woods that wasn’t even a hunting ground. Elliott, who joined the dinner, backed up my story. “The place was perfect for gathering, but we don’t think it’s safe,” he said. I really thought he would hold on to his ‘hunters-don’t-exist’ view in front of Nathan, but fortunately, he went with what I suggested. “It’s forbidden to hunt outside the hunting ground,” Dad said. “I should report this to the Sheriff.” “And tell him what?” Nathan chimed in, with his mouth still full of mashed potato. “That two teenagers—one happened to be your daughter—snuck into the woods at night and witnessed the shooting?” Here we go again. Nathan gaslighting someone on the dinner table wasn’t really a new thing. “Yes, that’s exactly what he should say,” I insisted, ignoring how the wording could put Dad into shame for having a teenage daughter going into the dark woods wi
The decoration for the homecoming night was already 80% finished, making it a forbidden room for any students other than the committees. It was decorated with black, gold, and silver color. Sparkling star decorations were hung on each corner, the paper lanterns were arranged as an arch in the entrance, and gold draperies was put as a background for the photo booth. The high ceiling was covered with black cloth, which would be luminated by light projector, making it look like a sky full of stars. Olive was raving about it this morning, but she couldn’t help after school because she had to take her mother to the clinic. So, she listed all the stuffs that needed to be done today and sent it to me. A little advice for those who bore missions from Olive Hartwell: do it right or have her knock on your door at night just because you put the wrong size of cups on the table. At the same time, Mom also sent me the list of groceries I had to purchase for the Full Moon.
The stories about hunters had been circling around werewolf tribes for long, as the history of supernatural beings was shaped partly because of them. There were two kinds of hunters—the ordinary one, humans who just liked to hunt wild animals; and the ones who hunted the supernaturals. The latter was what we always feared of, although many werewolves just fended it off because there had not been many cases about our kinds dying because of them. Nathan was definitely one of the skeptical ones. He thought being hit with a silver arrow was just a coincidence, or just Little Thea craving for attention. He couldn’t prove me wrong back then, but he still stayed with his principle: hunters were real, but they were not a threat to us as long as we stayed hidden. Mom’s explanations just struck me like a lightning bolt. If Nathan was right, both kind of hunters didn’t just threaten wild animals out there, but also humans. I heard from my parents once that hunters would
Nathan looked around the empty garage which was turned into a small music studio. From the radiance in his eyes, he actually admired the view. I wasn’t wrong about him being a guitar player, but he did it just for fun because he didn’t seem to care much about music that time. “You had friends over?” He glanced at me. “These are their stuffs?” “Yes,” I answered lazily. I truly didn’t want to deal with Nathan tonight after Dad gave me a cold shoulder about the garage being used by my human friends. Besides, Nathan didn’t even discuss about what he found last night over dinner. If he really did want to change like Mom said, he would let me know that a human was hurt and I witnessed it. “Are they performing for the homecoming tomorrow?” He asked again as his hand snatched an apple on the table. “No,” I replied, still focusing on my homework. “Too bad. I would like to see them perform,” he said and then bit the apple. “Mom, is my suit for the homec
The cancelled Full Moon celebration obviously made Elliott curious. Dad had talked to the Elders about the cancellation with a client’s death as a reason. While it was true, he didn’t say anything about hunters and such. Elliott called me when I was busy at school. I had to go out of the gymnasium to take his call and it only just full of him trying to dig deeper into the ‘reason’ that apparently didn’t satisfy him. He wasn’t this nosy when he was a kid, but it really wasn’t a surprise for me. “Is it because those hunters?” He asked after I refused to give him a clear answer. “Come on. I don’t think Elder Whitlock is that paranoid. He’s one of the strongest wolves I’ve ever met.” “He’s not an Elder anymore and he’s not paranoid,” I sighed. “He just feels like it’s not the right time to celebrate when he’s mourning.” Another thing I didn’t tell Elliott was Dad’s client who died was one of the hunters we saw back then. I would trust 10-year-old Elliott
Two hours before the homecoming night, the preparation was finally complete. Mrs. Keener let us come home to dress up. Even though it seemed like she would let us to have fun, she also expected us to be ready whenever a decoration fell down or the food ran out. I was resting my body on the bed when Mom knocked my door. She walked in and her jaw dropped at the sight of me lying down. “Thea, why aren’t you dressed yet?” Mom went into a sudden panic. She grabbed the maroon dress that I hung in front of my closet and gave it to me. “Calm down, Mom, it’s still two hours away,” I drawled. I really needed to close my eyes even for just five minutes, but Mom wouldn’t let me as she pulled me out of my bed. “At least, let’s do your hair first,” she urged. After forcing me to sit in front of my make-up table, she undid the hair tie that bound my hair into a bun. “Selene can do the rest.” “Selene?” I almost forgot that my brother would go to the homecomin
I was waiting for Olive to come when Dad arrived from the Sheriff’s office. He was holding a brown paper bag with a frown across his face. “Are there any news?” Mom who was just came back from the laundry room to take my jacket looked worried. Before he replied, he looked around. “Where’s Nathan?” “He already left with Selene,” I replied. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would leave me alone even though Olive and I could fit into his car and we could go to the school together. “The Sheriff confirmed that the bullets in Rick’s rifle were indeed silver,” Dad notified. “The good news is he didn’t seem to have any idea what were they for. He just thought that Rick liked to experiment on hunting.” “There’s nothing good comes out of this,” I whined. “Dad, he was a hunter—a werewolf hunter. It can only mean that the man who was with him was a hunter as well. God knows how many more of them out there.” “Yes. It was probably Sam Johnson,